Davis Motor Sales banner ad

ronniemcbrayer300 orangeKENTUCKY (8/16/14) — I grew up with a lot of religious rules.

To violate these rules was to subject oneself to the judgment of God. If you had a fundamentalist upbringing, you may be familiar with some of these restrictions. No drinking, no smoking, no dancing, no playing cards or going to the movies, no mixed-bathing (a prospect that intrigued my teenage mind), no Sabbath-breaking (though we did not actually gather on the Sabbath), and absolutely no questioning of religious authority.

Religious authority was bound up in “The Preacher.” The big Baptist downtown had a pastor. The Methodists had a seminary trained Reverend. The Presbyterians had a collection of elders. The one fledgling Catholic parish on the edge of town had a priest. I didn’t meet a Jew until high school, so I didn’t even know what a rabbi was, but it would not have mattered anyway.

In my narrow ecclesiastical world, we had The Preacher, the Alpha and Omega of religious instruction; the united concoction of fiery prophet, hardened inquisitor, moral policeman, and God’s anointed spokesman. I was certain that he cut his grass in a pinstripe suit and wingtips, didn’t know a single curse word, and all his children were probably adopted because to have sex with his wife was certainly too worldly, too carnal to consider.

See, the world in which the preacher lived was black and white with no shades of gray, no mystery, no ambiguities. There were only hard and fast certainties. You were in or you were out. If you wanted to know which you were, just ask him. He would tell you, and he used the pulpit to do exactly that.

On Sundays he became an inferno of Puritan proportions. Animated, wringing with sweat, discarding his suit coat and loosening his tie, he implored and coerced us sinners down the isle to the mourner’s bench. It usually worked. Someone “repented” most every service, even if it took thirty verses of “Just as I Am” to force the issue. Those altar calls were nerve rattling wars of attrition, and sometimes I felt compelled to go forward so the whole thing would mercifully end.

It was The Preacher who arrived at the hospital on a spring afternoon to visit my family. My younger brother was enduring a lengthy hospitalization with a faulty heart valve and a growing laundry list of complications. Not yet a year old, he had already faced more health challenges than most of us will ever see. His life hung by the proverbial thread.

My parents certainly needed emotional and spiritual support, a pastoral presence, but The Preacher was anything but comforting. I heard him say the most horrible thing to my parents. In paraphrase he said, “Surely you have committed some terrible sin for God to visit this kind of judgment on you and your family.” Even as a child I was flabbergasted, and to this day those words still burn my ears.

Is this the God of Christianity? Is this the kind of God behind our faith? Is this vindictive deity even worthy of our worship? I think not. While this might be the god of The Preacher, it is not the God revealed to us in the person of Jesus the Christ. For in Christ we find truth and grace, not this kind of crass judgmentalism. Jesus doesn’t walk into hospital rooms, his gluttonous belly pushing against the buttons of his tailored suit vest, handing out indictments of guilt to the innocent.

No, this Jesus sits down and weeps with the suffering. He opens his arms to the brutalized and confused. And while he doesn’t always provide us with the tidy solutions we long for, he always walks with us in the mystery of life and death.

I never accepted those words spoken in that hospital room. Maybe I’ve spent these decades of my life trying to disprove them. I hope you won’t accept them either.

The love of Christ always trumps the hardness of men’s hearts – even those men who claim to have all the answers.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.

Disclaimer: The content supplied by columnists and letters to the Editor on this site does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such content, statement, or opinions therein. SurfKY News does not necessarily adhere to or endorse content provided by outside non-staff sources.

© Copyright 2015 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story on social media.

In Other News...

Senator Ridley Meets with Union County First Leadership Group

FRANKFORT, Ky. (2/28/15) — Senator Dorsey Ridley (far left), D-Henderson met with the Union County First Leadership… Read More

March Events and More at Land Between the Lakes

KENTUCKY (2/28/15) — The following are the upcoming events and more at Land Between The Lakes: The Golden Pond Visitor… Read More

Most Read This Week

February 21, 2015 7762

Traffic Advisory for Western Kentucky

in Top News For All Sites by KTC
February 25, 2015 6931

Multi-Agency Investigation Nets Large-Scale Meth…

in Top News For All Sites by Trooper Stu Recke
February 24, 2015 6768

Two Charged in Central City Meth Bust

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Trooper Stu Recke
February 22, 2015 6624

Easter Cuties Pageant in Memory of Shanice Bean

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
February 21, 2015 6338

Local Administrators Warn Employees to Watch for…

in Top News For All Sites by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
February 25, 2015 6015

New Asian Restaurant Coming to Madisonville

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Gary Gates, SurfKY News

Most Read This Month

February 12, 2015

UPDATE: Name of Pennyrile Fatality Officially…

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
February 09, 2015

Police Pursue Man after Fight at Taco Bell

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Detention Center

Stories Trending Today

February 28, 2015 3224

City's Parking Ordinances to be Strictly Enforced…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
February 27, 2015 2308

AIRPLAY: Travis Dukes Makes Stop for Jam Session

in Top News For All Sites by Paul McRee, SurfKY News
February 27, 2015 2280

Local Church Hosting Spring Campmeeting

in Video by Gary Gates, SurfKY News
February 28, 2015 1458

Market Commentary - Feb. 28, 2015

in Top News For All Sites by Randall L. Franklin
February 28, 2015 1217

UK Athletics to Deepen Investment in Center for…

in General Sports For All Sites by UK Athletics
February 28, 2015 1175

Keeping the Faith - 'The Fewer the Words the…

in General News For All Sites by Ronnie McBrayer
February 28, 2015 1157

Whitfield Meets with American Physical Therapy…

in General News For All Sites by Robert Hankins
February 28, 2015 1151

Hooked on Science - 'Scribblebot'

in General News For All Sites by Jason Lindsey
February 28, 2015 1143

Happenings, Meetings Listed for Hopkins County

in Hopkins News by Amber Averitt, SurfKY News
February 28, 2015 986

Retirement Reception Held for City Employees

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Amber Averitt, SurfKY News